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Academics Criticise HSE Safeguards against toxic workplace dust

Posted in: Employer Negligence Industrial Deafness and Disease 

A failure by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to introduce adequate safeguards against toxic workplace dust mean workers are being put at risk of contracting lung cancer or other respiratory diseases say experts.

The Scottish university academics have the HSE regarding its recommended safe level of exposure to the substance crystalline silica, a powder created when working with bricks, concrete and plaster.

Silica is second biggest cause of occupational cancer deaths after asbestos and exposure to the substance can cause a range of other illnesses including silicosis, tuberculosis, kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and arthritis.

The HSE states that limitations in technology mean it is impractical to monitor for the presence of the substance below the exposure standard.

Professor Rory O’Neill, of Stirling University’s Occupational and Environmental Health and Safety Research Group and author of a new report on the substance, said: 

“The HSE says monitoring technology isn’t good enough yet to measure lower levels of silica dust, so we must stick with the same deadly, higher but measurable standard. It is wrong on both counts. The increasingly toothless safety watchdog is regurgitating the line promoted by the industry lobby, placing vested interests above workers’ health. Modern science can obtain and analyse dust on Mars. If HSE’s science can’t obtain and analyse adequately one of the most commonly encountered and deadly workplace dust exposures here on Earth, you have to ask who on Earth is the watchdog protecting?”

Professor O’Neill urges the HSE to take example from the American Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and introduce a rule change that would half the recommended safety level.

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